Your company is on the threshold of an exciting change – the migration to SAP S/4HANA. But how does it actually succeed? In this article, you will learn about the advantages and disadvantages of the greenfield approach as well as for which companies it is best suited.

Two men are looking at a project plan.

The decision has been made: Your company will soon be migrating to SAP S/4HANA. And now that the project is about to start, the question of HOW arises. Radical change with the greenfield approach, staying true to data and processes with the brownfield approach, or taking the middle ground with the bluefield approach? Of course, there is no universal answer here. To make the decision easier for you anyway, we have summarized all the important information on migration approaches in this series of articles. Today we start with the greenfield approach:

The term “greenfield” originally comes from the field of urban planning and construction. It refers to a pristine area that is free of previous development or structures.

In the SAP environment, the term is used for an approach in which all processes and systems are completely rebuilt and configured according to standards and best practices. Old legacy systems, user data and configurations that cannot be updated are not transferred to SAP S/4HANA.

Advantages of the Greenfield Migration

The main advantage is that inefficient or faulty processes are not transferred to the new system. The new IT landscape can therefore be optimized and built to meet current business requirements. This improves the company’s innovative strength and agility. And this is vital for companies for several reasons. Only those who work in an agile and innovative way …

  • can adapt to constantly changing customer requirements and ensure their satisfaction in the long term.
  • become resilient to external influences.
  • can permanently hold its own against competitors in the market.

Another advantage is that the risks of a greenfield migration are lower.

  • The implementation can be done in stages. This is particularly relevant if a company has several units that are to be integrated into the new system. These are then rolled out step by step and the achieved progress is secured. This minimizes the risks for disruption or failure.
  • During a greenfield migration, the new system is set up in alongside the existing one. Before the go-live, it is tested extensively. And in the event of a failure, IT managers can initiate a rollback to the old system.

And last but not least: Only with a greenfield migration it’s possible for companies to move to the cloud. In a press conference at the end of July 2023, SAP CEO Christian Klein announced that in the future, innovations and further developments such as AI functions would only be made available in the cloud.

Disadvantages of the Greenfield Migration

During the project phase, higher costs may initially be incurred as processes are set up from scratch. If this is on the agenda anyway, this additional cost is clearly overcompensated, as follow-up investments are avoided. In addition, the added value materializes much earlier and improves the ROI. Gaining access to innovative technologies has the potential to achieve greater customer satisfaction and thus higher revenues, as well as to strengthen the resilience of the company.

Nevertheless it should be noted that data from previous processes and systems will not be transferred. These must be backed up so that information that could potentially be relevant for future analysis, reporting and decision-making doesn’t get lost

The greenfield approach is suitable for companies that…

• aren’t fully satisfied with more than 95% of their processes and data in the system and whose SAP ECC system is more than five years old.

• have a lot of legacy data and custom code and want to return to SAP standard.

• want to continue to benefit from the latest SAP innovations in the cloud.

• want to realize a risk-minimized approach by migrating in stages.

• want to run the solution in the cloud and also have access to the latest SAP innovations in the future.

• have different legacy systems that need to be harmonized and merged.

Regardless of which approach seems to make the most sense to you, be sure to seek the advice of experts! An approach that is unsuitable for your company can, in the worst case, cause exploding costs and even business interruptions. But if you do it right, a successful migration lays the foundation for greater resilience and innovative strength – and thus the future-readiness of your company.

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